Activity Update

This page aims to keep you informed about the progression of our various conservation projects and most recent work in and around Dunedin.

August 14, 2017 / Winners of the Aurora Energy Otago Science Fair 2017 

Every year, Forest & Bird supports the Aurora Energy Otago Science and Technology Fair which promotes very young scientists from various schools across the region, including those with an interest in nature and the environment.

This year, our Forest & Bird jury allocated $450, which was split between seven winners. Four were on land use consequences on local water quality, one on the relationship between plant and erosion, one on rodent trapping techniques, and one on local bird diversity.

Here are the names of this year’s winners:

SENIOR Year 12 - Liam Hewson, Kings High School, Freshwater Ecology $50. JUNIOR / Year 9 - Keziah Woodcock, Taieri College, Are our rivers harmful or healthy? $50. Year 9 - Max Kirkwood, John McGlashan, Can plants stop soil erosion? $50. INTERMEDIATE / Year 8 - Benjamin Tucker, Fairfield School, Fatal fats? Rodent food preferences $75. Year 8 - Rachel Cunningham, Taieri College, How healthy is the Taieri River and does farming impact upon the water quality? $75. Year 8 - Robbie McCaw, Tahuna Intermediate, Tale of two streams; does land use in two different catchments affect water quality and stream health? $75. Year 8 - Flynn Ellison, Dunedin North Intermediate, Native or not? Are there more native or introduced birds at Chingford Park? $75.

24 June, 2017 / Model Otago shag nest pedestal building on Quarantine Island Bring Back the Seabirds


A group of 11 volunteers participated in an experimental nest pedestal building exercise.

The Otago shag (Leucocarbo chalconotus), a recently described localised species is known for its ability to completely denude their nesting sites of vegetation. As a result, several of the small predator free, offshore islands where this species currently nests are now bare and no longer suitable as nesting sites for burrowing seabird species.

The Otago shag has a small population and needs safe nesting areas. The building of model nest pedestals beside a known roosting site on Quarantine Island was conducted as an initial experiment to see whether the birds will show interest in using the nests. If successful this technique could be used to establish breeding colonies at managed mainland sites, leaving the off shore islets for more sensitive seabird species.

Twenty nest pedestals were constructed using locally sourced materials: pasture grass, dried flax leaves, fallen cabbage tree leaves. The mounds were bound using clay and starch paste and painted to help determine if they are being visited. Additionally two trail cameras have been set up to monitor the pedestals.

The shags appear to be showing interest for the nests. The cam snapshots below show Otago shags roosting higher up, just below the artificial pedestals (left, on June 28) and an Otago shag standing on one of the nest pedestals (right, on July 4).

This work was made possible thanks to the support of the Quarantine Island Kamuau Taurua Community Council and approval from DoC.

—Graeme Loh, Franny Cunninghame

27 May, 2017 / Boxthorn removal on Quarantine Island / Wilding Conifer Control

Graeme organised a group of 10 volunteers to take part in boxthorn removal from the cliffs on the southern side of Quarantine Island.

This invasive species, native to South Africa, had established on a small area of steep bank and cliffs, making access challenging.

The shrubs need to be uprooted to be successfully removed. People on the bank, safely roped on, tied the plants up and a team down on the shoreline pulled hard until the plants went flying out—a tug of war with boxthorn, one plant at a time.

A significant area was cleared and another work day will be organized in July to remove the remaining plants.

—Graeme Loh